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By Jorge Casuso

December 28, 2021 -- In early spring, COVID begins easing its grip, with cases and virus-related deaths dropping to near record low levels in May.

Still businesses continue to struggle, with a state-of-the-art movie theater shuttering and a major hotel changing hands, while the housing market continues to bounce back.

The Council gets busy, approving a budget; finding, then losing, its top city manager pick and replacing a longtime Councilmember who abruptly retires with no explanation.


Before April ends, Santa Monica hits its lowest weekly number of COVID-19 cases in more than seven months. It also reports no virus-related deaths for the first time in six months ("EXTRA -- Weekly COVID Cases Hit Lowest Level Since September, No Deaths Reported," April 26, 2021).

In early April, the Council votes to approve a plan that paves the way for building more than 6,000 new affordable housing units, including in exclusive single family neighborhoods, a provision that divides the members ("Divided Council Approves Plan to Meet State's Affordable Housing Mandate," April 6, 2021).

It also votes to use most of its $29.3 million in federal recovery funds to tackle homelessness, reopen facilities and provide rent relief to Pier and non-profit City tenants ("City Council Allocates More than $29 Million in Federal Recovery Funds," April 15, 2021).

Malibu's proposal to split from the School Districts gets a highly anticipated, though predictable, hearing before County education officials who hear conflicting views before preparing to cast an initial vote in June ("County Officials Hear City, District Positions on Malibu Split," April 19, 2021).

Businesses continue to shutter due to the cornonavirus shutdown, claiming the state-of-the-art Arclight theater the helped revitalize Santa Monica's fading moviegoing scene less than six years after opening ("Santa Monica's Arclight Theatre Shuttered Permanently," April 13, 2021).

After a big drop, Santa Monica rents increase for the fourth straight month in April, rising by 3 percent over the past month and outpacing rent growth nationwide ("Santa Monica Rents Continue Rising After Big Drop, Report Finds," April 27, 2021).


Nearly one year after Santa Monica was rocked by riots, protests and looting, the Council appoints 11 members to the newly created police commission, including a former City Councilmember, a retired Santa Monica police officer, a hotel manager and two local youths ("New Police Reform Commission Set to Begin Work," May 3, 2021).

That same week, the OIR Group releases a long-anticipated report on the May 2020 riots that finds that a woefully unprepared Police Department with no action plan or clear leadership was left to improvise a response ("EXTRA -- Report Harshly Criticizes Police Response to May 31 Riots, Chronicles Department in "Disarray," May 6, 2021).

In an unprecedented move, the Council votes 6 to 1 to award attorneys fees in a lawsuit challenging the Council's decision the previous summer to proceed with negotiations over the controversial Plaza project on City owned land Downtown ("Council Awards Legal Fees in Plaza Lawsuit," May 12, 2021).

The Council also votes to cover two historic City Hall murals that have been on view for more than 80 years, arguing they offer a racist portrayal of native Americans and glorify white privilege ("Council Votes to Cover Historic Mural in City Hall Lobby," May 14, 2021).

In what marks the third public suicide of the year, a man leaps to his death from a freeway overpass ("Man Leaps from Freeway Overpass Marking 3rd Public Suicide This Year," May 13, 2021).

The number of weekly COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica drops to the lowest level since the first week of the pandemic, but those in the city -- including the vaccinated -- must continue wearing face masks ("EXTRA -- Santa Monica Hits Fewest Weekly Cases Since Start of Pandemic, Masks Must Stay On," May 19, 2021).

The local hotel workers union is back in the news after a Santa Monica hotel it has been battling reportedly sells and union leaers send a strong message opposing a $20 billion bill sponsored by Democrats and backed by its parent union ("Embattled Santa Monica Hotel Reportedly Sells for Some $75 Million," May 20, 2021 and "Local Hotel Union Opposes Federal Bill Meant to Save Hotel Jobs," May 25, 2021).

The City Council continues its search for a new city manager, meeting in a special closed session for a second weekend in a row ti fill the powerful post that will become vacant in a month ("Council to Meet Again Sunday in Search for New City Manager," May 21, 2021).

With no prior warning, City Councilmember Kevin McKeown announces he would retire effective June 11 then abruptly turned off his zoom camera, sending shocked colleagues and political observers searching for a reason ("EXTRA -- McKeown Abruptly Retires," May 26, 2021).


The Council launches the process to fill McKeown's seat, which gets off to a slow start as few candidates submit applications ("Council to Launch Process Next Week to Fill Vacant Council Seat," May 28, 2021).

After meeting for a record sixth time, word gets out that the Council is expected to hire Montebello City Manager Rene Bobadilla as Santa Monica's first Latino city manager ("Council Expected to Hire Montebello City Manager," June 1, 2021).

But after a unanimous vote to hire him, Bobadilla informs the Council that he is rejecting the offer, choosing to stay in his Montebello post ("EXTRA -- Council Votes to Hire Bobadilla as City Manager, Jalili as Interim," June 8, 2021).

Assuring neighboring residents that it is only a test, the Council greenlights a plan to close two blocks of Main Street to traffic on select weekends ("Bobadilla Rejects Offer to Become Santa Monica City Manager," June 10, 2021).

After nearly eight hours of public testimony and discussion, the Council approves a more than $1.3 billion biennial budget adds funding to tackle homelessness, help local businesses recover from the coronavirus shutdown and restore programs and services cut or scaled back to fill a gaping budget gap ("Council Approves $1.3 Billion Biennial Budget," June 23, 2021).

Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) announces that in July it would stop accepting cash, tokens or paper magnetic fare cards as part of a six-month pilot program that could hurt seniors and the poor ("EXTRA -- Big Blue Bus to Stop Accepting Cash, Fare Cards; Could Impact the Poor," June 25, 2021).

After a last-minute surge in applications, the Change faction on the City Council flexed its power by casting three of the four votes needed to appoint Lana Negrete to fill McKeown's Council seat. It is the third seat filled by appointment in less than two and a half years and gives the Council its first majority not backed by the City's two major factions ("EXTRA -- Council Appoints Negrete to Fill McKeown's Seat," June 29, 2021).

Rents in Santa Monica rise at a higher rate in June than in neighboring Los Angeles or the nation at large ("Santa Monica Rents Continue Rising, Report Finds," June 30, 2021).

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